It’s been 20 years since the discovery of Darangshi cave and to commemorate the importance of the event that forced the South Korean government to investigate what happened during the Jeju Massacre (commonly known as 4.3 in Korean), the Jeju April 3rd Research Institute held a seminar called Memory Towards Peace and Human Rights from March 28 to 29.
The cave, located in Darangshi Oreum, Jeju City, was where 11 people (including four women and three children) were killed by asphyxiation in 1948 by government forces who lit a fire at the mouth of the cave.
This is only one story of many which involved innocent Jeju citizens being killed by the newly-formed South Korean government during the Jeju Massacre (1948 to 1954). In the government’s hunt for supposed Communists living on the island, an estimated 30,000 residents lost their lives.
“Because of the cave’s discovery, the Jeju April 3 Peace Park Museum was built, in which a Darangshi cave replica is located,” Moon Mu Byung, one of the original researchers to have entered the cave, told The Weekly on the second day of the event. “Its [discovery] showed the genuine nature of the islanders back then, as well as the trauma 4.3 cause. Since then, 4.3 has come more important to the islanders.”
The first day of the conference consisted of a video entitled “Sad Song of Darangshi,” and testimonials by Ko Gwang Chi, 72, and Ko Jong Won, 64, at the Jeju Culture Center.
On March 29, at the Small and Medium Business Support Center in Jeju City, the second day was dedicated to discussing the importance and the future of the Jeju Massacre.
In the audience were several nuns and Catholic priests on hand for the keynote speech “Jeju Journey to becoming the island of peace” by Jeju Catholic Bishop Kang Woo Il.
“I’ve been to the United States holocaust memorial museum,” he said. “It reminded me of Jeju’s 4.3. Even though it is different in scale and aspect, there are many similarities in that they both are massacres without legal processes and all was committed government authority over a long period of time, and done in secret.”
He continued that because of the atrocities committed here that other countries can learn much about human rights. Kang referenced the Holocaust and because it has become widely known throughout the world, many other countries learned of ways to prevent human rights violations from occuring.
“4.3 teaches us that no one should be able to deprive another of their life even when the government endorses it.”
Through most of his speech the bishop made indirect comparisons between the Jeju Massacre and the controversial naval base project in Gangjeong village, Seogwipo City. But he concluded his lecture by saying outright that “We should make Jeju not as a military base but as a peace island.”
Following the Bishop was Ko Chang Hoon’s paper “Historic meaning of Darangshi cave and assignments,” where he argues that within Darangshi cave can be found a basis for peace but the plans for the naval base threaten the island from achieving its goal.
“When the evidence of 4.3 found Darangshi cave was revealed, the government destroyed it like Gangjeong’s gurumbi became a symbol of peace on the Korean peninsula when the Navy started to explode it,” said the Jeju National University professor.
Heo Jun Ho, a reporter for the Hangyeore newspaper, presented “Jeju natives’ cognitive of punitive forces during 4.3 era and the logic of massacre.” Chae Jun Ok and Ko Hee Beom lectured on “Memory of Darangshi Cave,” and there was a discussion on the topic of peace by the panelists.
Kim Seo Won, a retired teacher who was in the audience for the lectures on the second day of the conference, said she attended because even as a citizen of Jeju she knew little about the massacre. She continued that all she knew about the cave before the conference was its name, with no knowledge of its importance.
“From today, I’d like to re-focus the island of peace at a different level. The Jeju citizens [should] actively participate in [this]. We are trying to move ahead from the pain,” she said.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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